Time for Desert Communities to Take PRIDE

The Daily Press and residents of the Victor Valley in the western Mojave Desert are issuing a PRIDE (People Ready to Improve the Desert Environment) challenge to address the many facets of blight that are evident in the region.   As a kid playing in the open desert across the street from my Victorville home in the 1980s and 90s, I would find trash dumped by residents too lazy or cheap to responsibly dispose of tires, furniture and other refuse. 

I have written before about the need for desert communities to respect themselves and surrounding wildlands, in part by minimizing our impact on desert habitat and keeping both the desert and our cities clean.  The lack of respect by some leaves an impression for all to see, but how long we tolerate the mess is ultimately up to all of us.  In a single hour, my sister and I were able to fill five large bags  of trash that we removed from a small patch of Joshua tree and pinyon juniper habitat in the western part of the Victor Valley.  Not long after that, I heard about a couple of other organizations closer to the Yucca Valley that were committed to volunteer clean-ups of our desert.  Most recently, I was inspired by Death Valley Jim's initiative to clean-up some public lands near Barstow and Yermo that have been trashed by disrespectful users.

So it is refreshing to see community leaders in the Victor Valley taking notice, and refusing to tolerate the mess left by a few.  Most recently, Daily Press editor Steve Hunt kicked off a series to showcase both examples of blight, as well as evidence of folks taking pride in the community. 

Here are some of my own photos to showcase some of the messes I have unfortunately come across during my travels in the desert:

I came across this heap of illegally dumped trash and a discarded boat in the middle of what was otherwise a beautiful stretch of the western Mojave Desert between Palmdale and El Mirage, and just south of Edwards Air Force Base.

I got up early one morning in December 2012 to photograph sunrise in some Joshua tree woodland area in western Victorville, and had to do a lot of creative framing to keep trash out of the photos.  Eventually I gave up and made trash the subject.

The typical beautiful desert sunrise cast striking colors on the horizon, but you have to look past the trash dump.

There were several different trash piles scattered about in close proximity.  I could not help but wonder whether they were all from the same person - perhaps returning with more trash every other year - or from different people.  Either way, I was frustrated that I could not enjoy a walk in the desert without stumbling upon their mess.

On a hike in the Juniper Flats area above Apple Valley I came across a common sight - a balloon caught in the shrubs.  I have pulled at least a dozen balloons and many more plastic bags from the desert, even from areas as remote as the Silurian Valley and near the Cady Mountains. If you buy a helium-filled balloon, please do not release it.

The desert is a beautiful place, and those that have the privilege to live in the desert should take pride in their community and the desert wildlands that surround us. 

The morning sun hits yucca in bloom near Apple Valley and Juniper Flats.
As others have done, you can always set out and clean up your neighborhood or your favorite patch of desert.  Every twenty minutes or hour that you spend walking and picking up trash will add up over time, and eventually we can defeat the apathy that has allowed blight to flourish.   For organized events, I am sure you can stay tuned to the Daily Press, or check out the Environmental Awareness Day event at the Mall of Victor Valley on October 17 for opportunities to get involved.   On September 27, there are several events scheduled for National Public Lands Day across southern California, and Death Valley Jim has helpfully listed the details on his website


  1. In all fairness to the good people of Victorville, that balloon flew in from LA. All the prevailing winds point right at the desert. My hubby and I find so many balloons while hiking we have a "guess what is on the balloon" game.

  2. When i first came to the desert 50 yrs ago, 3 sons and no money, these spontaneous dump sites became the sole source of material well-being--recycling had not yet found its popular groove. we thrived with man's obsolescence. created artistic furnishings and sold our myriad re-purposed gems at desert fairs. Wasteful society has swollen at the pace of its careless rampaging of earth's resources. the mindful are left to clean up the mess like a big brother after his little half brother brat..let us connect and reconcile the waste practices of town and desert, we are tough and fragile.


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